March 5, 2018

17th World Conference on Tobacco or Health begins in Cape Town, South Africa this week

The 17th World Conference on Tobacco or Health begins in Cape Town, South Africa this week (7-9 March 2018), and the first time the conference is being held in Africa. The is significant because South Africa has been a global tobacco control leader in the past twenty years by implementing tobacco control policies well before many other low- and middle-income countries. The success of these policies led to smoking prevalence declining from above 30% in the early 1990s to 16% at present. Furthermore, much of this reduction was a result of tobacco tax policies, which came to be recognized as ‘best practice’ that still serves a model for many other low- and middle-income countries.


A second important reason for the significance of WCTOH 2018 being held in Africa is that Africa remains one of the few regions in the world where smoking prevalence is still rising. While in many high-income countries, smoking prevalence rates are declining and the focus is on cessation, in Africa, the challenge is to ensure that people don’t start smoking. Thus, the timing of this conference presents a strategic opportunity for a prevention strategy.


Looking at the conference program, there are some important sessions that Tobacconomics will be engaged in. Firstly, we’re extraordinary excited to be hosting a preconference workshop with our friends from the University of Cape Town. This will be held on Tuesday 6 March from 9am until 4:30pm. Frank Chaloupka will be the keynote speaker at the workshop and Evan Blecher will be facilitating group discussions. This session is open to all registered conference participants.


The conference begins in earnest on Wednesday 7 March. Evan Blecher is co-chairing a symposium on “Evaluating the Health Impact of Tobacco Tax” which includes presentations by Evan on Kenya, as well as German Rodriguez-Iglesias on Argentina and Ce Shang on India. This session will share different models to evaluate the effectiveness of tobacco tax policies and covers a variety of methods, data and settings.


One Wednesday, Frank Chaloupka will also presenting at the WHO arranged session on “Tobacco Control Monitoring – more than Measuring Tobacco Use” where he will be speaking about monitoring illicit trade.  On Thursday, he will be dissemination some of the findings of the NCI/WHO Monograph on the economics of tobacco control at a session “Building the Case for Increasing Taxes in Latin America and the Caribbean”.


The final plenary session of the conference on Friday will focus on “Taxing Tobacco and Financing Tobacco Control”. Frank Chaloupka will be one of the panelists alongside Jeremias Paul from the World Health Organization, Patricio Marquez from the World Bank and Hana Ross from the University of Cape Town.


There are many other sessions where the Tobacconomics team are presenting or chairing and we’ll be posting daily updates on Twitter of these sessions as well as links to our daily blogs on